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Strategic Supply Chain Trends We Can Expect to See in 2020

Improving your supply chain continuously as new trends emerge, can be the key difference in maintaining sustainable growth for any company.

Strategic supply chain management can be an integral part of any organization. As we enter this new year, we can expect to see trending knowledge, technology, and strategies emerge--especially in the supply chain industry. These exciting innovations will be what propels businesses to the next level, driving exciting changes.

Rex Clothier, VP of CPG at Maine Pointe, stated at the start of the new year that “Finding ways to accelerate advancement in maturity is one of the most powerful ways to transform the supply chain into a competitive weapon.“ Improving your supply chain continuously as new trends emerge, can be the key difference in maintaining sustainable growth for any company.

Let‘s take a look at some of the trends we‘ll continue to track into this new year.

Eco-Friendly Solutions

Over the last decade, individuals and corporations took incredible strides to reduce their carbon footprint and create a more sustainably focused future. This trend is likely to impact supply chain organizations this year, as well. With growing concerns over the effects of emissions produced by supply chain transportation, businesses must find solutions to combat these issues.

One solution that is trending amongst large corporations is constructing eco-friendly warehouses. While this may sound like a daunting task, new technology is making this process more accessible than ever before. Introducing an energy management system into plant operations is a strong starting point for any organization to work off of in their effort to be more environmentally sustainable. Here are a few simple integrations these systems can include:

  • Energy-efficient lighting - operates from a timer that helps prevent excessive electricity usage
  • Temperature and climate-control devices - reduce the risk of inventory destruction by ensuring climate temperatures are consistent, thus reducing waste
  • Electric forklifts - eliminate the need for gas and oil

Conscious efforts to build eco-friendly warehouses can prove beneficial to your organization as well. A recent study shows consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies that use socially responsible supply chain strategies. With green consumerism on the rise, more companies are expected to implement eco-friendly supply chain processes in the coming years.

 Automated Warehouses

Automating warehouse operations can help with improving productivity rates, employee satisfaction levels, and increasing ROI. This investment in automation technology may prove to pay for itself over a relatively short time as you begin to see the effects take hold in your warehouse.

Robotic process automation is becoming one of the most significant aspects of a modern warehouse. With drones and driverless cars on the rise, the limits to how technology can impact the supply chain are virtually limitless, and this trend is expected to continue for years to come. Spending on robotics and drones is forecasted to hit a record high of $241.4 billion by 2023, and the supply chain industry is making one of the most significant investments in this technology.

Advanced robotics work alongside humans to conduct labor-intensive tasks. This level of automation can make roles more enticing for warehouse employees, who can now focus on more problem-solving and engaging activities. Versatility in a position is crucial for retention. Often called co-bots, these systems help increase the value of an employee's position, keeping them engaged and excited. As time progresses, there will likely be an increase in new and innovative jobs opening up as time progresses to accommodate maintaining and operationalizing these robots.

Alongside automation, we'll likely see a more significant increase in IoT (Internet of Things) adoption across the industry. Exciting new technology has been released in years past that is beginning to catch on. From RFID (radio frequency identification) sensors that monitor live time shipping and delivery to predictive maintenance technology, advancements are continuously emerging. Allocating your budget to include technology that improves your supply chain's overall efficiency is always a worthwhile investment.

Nate Powrie, Maine Pointe EVP Data Analytics, shared his insights on this topic stating that “introducing a streamlined process of invoicing and automating spend analytics provides a comprehensive and sustainable view of the organization‘s procurement health. Such platforms provide advanced data transformation by combining automation and artificial intelligence.“

Elastic Logistics

Expectations are rising, product life cycles are shrinking, and stricter regulations are placing higher demands and limitations on the supply chain industry. Organizations need to be able to respond to these fluctuations in the marketplace quickly to succeed. Because of this, the use of elastic logistics is on the rise.

Automation is playing a large part in helping create a more elastic workflow, ensuring the ability to better adjust to demands as they arise. Supplementing human workflow with robotic process systems can create an advanced workforce that will be one step ahead of any challenge. An essential part of this process is educating the future of the supply chain workforce so they will be better prepared for the demands ahead.

Utilizing a cloud ERP system can help an organization better track and manage their entire supply chain system, allowing for greater flexibility and reactiveness. A secure cloud-based operation ensures data are easily accessible and manageable from any location. This can help organizations quickly react to seasonal and product demands and avoid over- or understocking. Integrated business planning solutions help ensure greater security, innovation, and agility across all aspects of the supply chain.

Data Monitoring

In an already technologically advanced field, it only makes sense that the value of data in advancing the strategies and processes of the industry would begin to be proven. We've learned a great deal over the history of data in business applications as to how useful and intuitive it can be.

In supply chain management, much of the process is ruled by statistics and quality analysis. Because of this, decisions must be based on fact-driven analysis. This is where data can play a significant role in driving these analyses forward. Having the ability to visualize your data and use it as a powerful tool, as the Maine Pointe system does, your organization can use this data to gain a competitive advantage while driving strategies forward and increasing profits significantly.

Nate Powrie stated in a recent article that “as the unprecedented growth of data continues, it is going to make the procurement function focus more on analytics than ever before.“

Take the data you have at hand and use it to leverage your forecasting capabilities in a way that makes sense for your organization. Machine learning algorithms can be used in conjunction with cameras to use historical data that will help these machines predict when inventory will need to be restocked. Anyone in charge of supply chain forecasting knows their job entirely depends on accurately ensuring everything is in the right place at the right time, so understanding the underlying factors that determine this information can be invaluable. Furthermore, when examining data, it's important to look at every factor that impacts production, from weather to past sales data to historically relevant environmental and political issues that have had impacts previously.

As the supply chain industry continues to innovate throughout the year, companies must remain agile to stand out amongst their competition. Stay on top of the trends as they emerge and consider how your business can best adopt these technologies and strategies into daily operations.


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